“There’s a fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans,” Kavanagh said. “Democrats value as many people as possible voting, and they’re willing to risk fraud. Republicans are more concerned about fraud, so we don’t mind putting security measures in that won’t let everybody vote — but everybody shouldn’t be voting.”
In other words, Republicans value fewer people voting (though he didn’t put it quite that way). But it gets worse:
“Not everybody wants to vote, and if somebody is uninterested in voting, that probably means that they’re totally uninformed on the issues,” Kavanagh said. “Quantity is important, but we have to look at the quality of votes, as well.”
How do you know whether the votes in your state are of sufficient “quality”? It’s simple: Did President Biden win your state in 2020? If the answer is yes, you clearly have a quality control problem.
That’s why Arizona and Georgia — the two states where Republicans control the legislature and the governor’s mansion, but where Biden won in November — are leading the way on new voter-suppression measures.
Can they be stopped? The answer is a qualified yes. Though the conservatives on the Supreme Court have seldom met a voter-suppression law they wouldn’t rubber-stamp, Democrats have a powerful weapon in their arsenal: backlash.
It has happened before, and it can happen again. When Republicans attempt to keep people likely to vote Democratic from the polls — usually Black people, but also young people, Latino people and Native people — those voters can become so angry that they turn out to vote in greater numbers. Once their franchise is threatened, they get more motivated to use it, even if it means overcoming the hurdles that are placed in front of them.
That’s the outcome Republicans are now risking. Their voter-suppression ideas are so blatantly partisan and so indefensible that they garner more media attention, which could prove a potent organizing tool for Democrats.
Consider Kavanagh, whose quote about “the quality of votes” will no doubt be repeated by Arizona Democrats a zillion times. He’s not the first Republican to say the quiet part loud: During the 2012 presidential race, a Republican official in Pennsylvania bragged that voter ID “is going to allow” the GOP “to win the state of Pennsylvania.”
It’s not that they’re revealing something no one knew, but symbolic moments like those crystallize the issue and, if enough attention is drawn to them, drive a salutary backlash.
It’s also important to remember that, in many cases, Republicans will try to suppress Democratic votes but will wind up making it just as hard for their own supporters to cast ballots. That’s likely the case with new restrictions on mail-in voting that are central to new laws Republicans are proposing.
Indeed, during the 2020 presidential election, it turned out that even though many more Democrats than Republicans voted by mail, it didn’t help Biden win; evidence suggests that people who were going to vote anyway just switched the method they used. So when Republicans put a whole bunch of new restrictions on mail-in voting, it won’t actually help them.
Something similar is happening with drop boxes, which Florida Republicans are moving to ban and those in other states want to restrict. The idea that fraud won’t occur if you drop your ballot in a mailbox but will occur if you put it in a special ballot drop box located outside an election board office is positively idiotic. And banning them will make things less convenient for everyone, not just Democrats.
Which means that in the end, Republicans get zero value from banning drop boxes — but it does provide a visible symbol of their determination to suppress votes. It’s absurd, shameless and noticeable, which means it’s likely to attract media coverage and become another high-profile example of Republican voter suppression.
There are other measures they’re pushing that are more directly targeted right at Black voters, and for which they can’t begin to come up with a rationale. In Georgia, for instance, they want to limit or eliminate early voting on Sundays, because that’s when Black churches mount “Souls to the Polls” drives. They also want to make it illegal to give food or water to people waiting in line to vote — knowing full well that voting lines tend to be longer in minority neighborhoods.
Measures such as these are so flagrant that they might as well say that only voters of low “quality” are voting on Sunday or have to wait in line. It’s obvious to everyone what they’re doing, and Democrats should be able to use it to get voters motivated to turn out, no matter how difficult their state’s Republicans make it.
And then maybe those Democrats can win the power that will allow them to make it easier for everyone, no matter what party they support, to vote.